It’s that time of year again. Four days off from professional pursuits, families gathered around the dinner table, and 2:00 AM trips to [retailer of your choice] -- it’s Black Friday time! I’ll leave you to uncovering the best deals on TVs and laptops; we’re talking information governance. As we approach the end of 2014, now is as good a time as any to take stock of whether you’ve covered all your IG bases. With all the day-to-day fires to put out when working in this field, a moment of reflection and perspective can be vital to making sure your organization isn’t left with coal in its stockings (sorry, wrong holiday). Without further ado, here’s your information governance shopping list:
Not to belabor the obvious, but large companies sue and get sued a lot. Sometimes the government gets involved, making things especially messy. To really boil it down to fundamentals, having good command of enterprise data is important for two reasons: to help the company itself understand what took place, and to ensure that the company is not penalized for missing information. With respect to the former, coordinating even a simple timeline of events for a multinational corporation can be an arduous task. Having effective control and management of data is crucial to ensuring an accurate baseline of what actually took place with regard to a given litigation. Is the Justice Department correct that there was a conspiracy to bribe a foreign official, or are the allegations just a bunch of hot air? Did the car manufacturer deliberately conceal knowledge of a defect, or was the defect something that no one could have foreseen? These and other questions are most easily answered (and, in some instances, can only be answered) if the organization knows where all of its data is, how to locate and mine it, and how to readily make it available for consumption by the appropriate persons—whether in-house counsel, the opposing party to a lawsuit, or a government investigator.
At its most basic level, compliance is an exercise in ensuring that the members of the organization act in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, including internal controls that strive to go above and beyond in maintaining the company’s ethical standards. As with litigation, effective control of your information is key to maintaining compliance. Doing so can help catch problems before they become subject to litigation or governmental action. The right technology can be quite helpful in this pursuit, detecting problematic conduct based on keywords and patterns of communication. The department manager may not be aware that sexual harassment is occurring in his department, but if one employee is repeatedly sending emails to another with the phrases “dinner” and “get together” every few days, with responses tending to have a negative tone, a robust compliance tool can be used to detect the issue, bring it to the attention of the right people, and potentially remedy it before it escalates to a full-blown legal problem.
When information was overwhelmingly paper-based, records referred to the 5-10% of documents that were most crucial to the organization, such as contracts and HR files. Digital information begs the question of what now constitutes a record, since corporations are now responsible for maintaining and responsibly deleting all of that information. Simply put, records management principles must now be broadly applied to all of a company’s data. Some may be uncomfortable referring to every piece of digital information in the enterprise as a “record,” and that’s OK, since at that point we’re just debating semantics. The take-home message is that all data must now be actively managed and disposed of in accordance with records management principles. Call them “Foxclore” if you must, but all those emails, files, social media posts, and any other digital information that your organization creates are points of exposure to liability if you aren’t completely certain whether and where they exist in the enterprise.
Where records helps form the foundation for all of the items in our shopping list, analytics represent the highest achievable potential. With information properly managed and accounted for, unstructured data analytics can be used to make inferences that a person acting unassisted would simply not be capable of. We have the technology, we have the processing power, but we do not yet have the widespread understanding that each and every corporation, at this very moment, sits on a veritable goldmine of information. Properly managed, the body of enterprise unstructured data can be intelligently processed and mined to glean insights in the same way that structured data is currently analyzed. We can find the organizational leaders and subject matter experts, conduct real-time investigations, and ensure that efforts aren’t being needlessly, wastefully duplicated.
It’s not too often that you can check off all the items on your shopping list with one purchase, but in the case of information governance, it’s what ZL has long been committed to. Holiday gift shopping may be one thing… we’ll look the other way if you happen to throw an elbow to get your hands on the season’s hottest deals. But for information management needs, we prefer a more civilized approach: unlike iPhones, laptops, or turkeys, you can try ZL Unified Archive before you buy.